Liberal dark money group launches ads targeting Sinema, Manchin to support S1 election bill

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A liberal dark money group is launching advertisements in the states of Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in an attempt to get their constituents in West Virginia and Arizona to pressure them into supporting their party’s controversial election overhaul bill.

The VoteVets Action Fund, the dark money advocacy arm of the liberal group VoteVets, paid for the two ads aimed at pressuring the two moderate Democrats to back the sweeping election bill S.1, the For the People Act, which progressives in the party want to pass by killing the filibuster.

Sinema is a co-sponsor of the measure but doesn’t agree with the call from progressives in the Democratic Party to kill the filibuster. 

Manchin has voiced his concerns about the bill and has slammed the media for its obsession over asking him about his position on the filibuster, saying reporters “ask the same question every day.” In an April op-ed he said, “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.”

During an interview with Vox in April, Manchin warned that the sweeping election bill could lead to “anarchy” and erode public trust in elections. 

One of the ads features a pair of veterans who are father and son saying American democracy is being “taken away” and calling on Congress to get “big money out of politics.”

The second ad features a female Army Iraq veteran whose husband passed away four years after they got married. The spot also includes the same line of American democracy being “taken away.”

The clip also states Sinema is “working to get big money out of politics and protect our freedom to vote.”

Both 30-second ads reveal at the end that they are paid for by the VoteVets Action Fund, which is the nonprofit arm. According to IssueOne, a bipartisan advocacy group, the action fund is one of the “top 15 dark money groups” they have looked into and said groups like them will masquerade as nonprofits to “avoid the mandatory donor disclosure rules that would come with registering as a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence elections.”

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative nonprofit, called the VoteVets Action Fund a “dark money” group in 2016. They do not disclose their donors.

The ad launch comes amid President Biden taking a thinly veiled shot at the senators during his speech commemorating the Tulsa race massacre, accusing the pair of stalling his agenda.

John Soltz, the chairman and co-founder of VoteVets, told Fox News that the ads are meant to convey that his organization will have the backs of senators who support “this crucial bill.”

“We want every senator to know that VoteVets will have their backs if they help pass this crucial bill,” Soltz said. “That’s what these ads are about.”

S.1 is the largest overhaul of the U.S. election law in at least a generation and covers many aspects of the voting process, including requiring states to automatically register eligible voters and offer same-day voter registration. The bill also requires states to offer 15 days of early voting and allows no-excuse absentee balloting, which 14 states would have to implement. The states that already allow it would have to conform to S.1’s standards.

The VoteVets Action Fund isn’t the only dark money group getting involved in supporting the overhaul election bill. The Sixteen-Thirty Fund, a liberal dark money organization that bankrolls scores of left-wing projects and organizations, has thrown at least $1.3 million behind internal lobbyists supporting H.R 1, the companion bill of S.1.

Between 2016 and 2020, Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss directed $135 million into the Sixteen-Thirty Fund — which does not identify its donors. Wyss said in 2014 that he is not an American citizen.

The offices of Manchin and Sinema did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the ads.

Fox News’ Cameron Cawthorne and Joe Schoffstall contributed to this report.

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